Archbold Buckeye: A lifelong calling for employees

Teri Saylor

Special to Publishers' Auxiliary

Feb 1, 2021


Mary Huber and David Pugh are a testament to a long-running slogan among the staff at the Archbold (Ohio) Buckeye: “When you start working at the Buckeye, you never leave.”

Huber, a former math teacher, joined the newspaper in 1987 as ad director, the first ever at the Buckeye. Pugh was already on board, working as a reporter. The two bought the multi-generational, family owned newspaper in January 2019 and are co-publishers. Huber still manages the advertising and business side of the paper. Pugh oversees the news.

Other staff have enjoyed similar longevity, working for the Buckeye anywhere from 24 to 34 years. One former employee who retired a couple of years ago still comes in on Wednesday afternoons to cover the office while the other staff are getting the paper out.

“We are kind of like family because we have been here so long,” Huber said in a telephone interview.

It was this warm family environment and love for the community and their readers that inspired Huber and Pugh to buy the paper from its former owners.

W.O. Taylor founded the Archbold Buckeye in July 1905 and published it over four decades until his death in 1945. His wife, Magdalena took over, and when she died in 1955, the paper passed to their four children. They managed it until 1978, when Ross Taylor, the founder’s grandson, bought it and kept it in the family for one final generation. To preserve the newspaper’s legacy and avoid selling it to a corporate interest, Taylor offered it to his employees. Huber and Pugh jumped at the chance. They love the newspaper and did not want to risk its future.

“I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Huber said. “I know people don’t always going to agree with what we do, or what we publish, but they always buy the newspaper when it comes out, and if it’s late, we get calls from readers asking where it is.”

Archbold is a village in Fulton County, Ohio. Its population hovers around 5,000. On its website, the village calls itself “A Community of Character!” Situated along Ohio’s northern border, Archbold is about 50 miles west of Toledo.

The Buckeye is published on Wednesdays, and its circulation is around 1,800, Huber said. She still fills the same role she assumed when she joined the newspaper in 1987, but over the decades, her job description has expanded to cover a myriad of responsibilities.

“Along the way, I became the general manager, computer coordinator and assistant sports editor,” she said. “In addition to writing sports, I also take photos.”

The newspaper runs under the efforts of a cohort of full–time and part–time employees who fill various roles, as needed. A part–time advertising salesperson bolsters Huber’s sales effort. Others lay out the pages and make sure newspapers make their way into readers’ hands and homes.

Huber cites printing as her biggest challenge as local presses shut down. And while she is still married to print, the newspaper maintains a vibrant online presence and sells subscriptions to the digital Buckeye for $11 per year as an add-on to the print product. Online only costs $41 per year, and print only costs $52 for in-county readers. But local readers can subscribe to both options for $63. The newspaper also has a student rate, based on a 9-month subscription. The newspaper has 300 digital subscribers and nearly 4,000 followers on Facebook.

Taking her newspaper’s watchdog role seriously, Huber believes her top responsibility is to maintain vigilance over local government officials, and she knows folks in her community sometimes take the Buckeye for granted.

“We’re here to report on what’s going on in the community,” she said. “I believe if we weren’t here to do that, people would have a better understanding of a newspaper’s role.”

In addition to serving as her community’s watchdog, she also touts the community newspaper’s unique mission to cover small, everyday human pleasures.
“For example, we have a family here that has built a little train in their yard as a decoration and a photo opportunity for neighbors and their kids,” Huber said. “This won’t make the Toledo Blade or any other large newspaper, but we’re here to cover those things and our entire community at large.”

A few years ago, the state of Ohio wanted to move a main roadway that ran through Archbold’s business district and create a bypass, addressing concerns about industrial traffic on Main Street. Downtown retailers and local businesses feared moving the highway would divert customers away and impact their livelihoods. The newspaper covered the issue thoroughly, even publishing a front-page news item based on a public notice that advertised a hearing on the matter. The news and the notice drew 50 people to the hearing.

“I think it is so important for small towns and villages like Archbold to have newspapers that let people know what is going on in their community,” she said. “You can’t depend on what everyone says on Facebook, and there, you don’t even know if what you are reading is true or not.”

Huber is weathering the COVID-19 pandemic as best she can. She received a PPP grant and accepted donations from local residents.

Today, the town is starting to open back up. But over the years, time has taken its toll, and some of the mainstay businesses and service providers have withered. A century-old furniture store recently shut its doors, but another local furniture store remains a loyal advertising customer, Huber said. She remembers when banks were plentiful in town and generous with their advertising dollars. Today, the village is home to just three banks. Five car dealerships have dwindled down to three, plus one used-car lot. What’s left of the business base still advertises and supports the newspaper. The local grocery store publishes weekly inserts, two area hospitals run regular ads, and other local businesses buy advertising, too.

The U.S. Postal Service delivers the bulk of the Buckeye newspapers each week, but given the post office turmoil and inconsistent printing facilities, Huber’s crystal ball is cloudy.

“One of our biggest questions is how long is it going to be affordable to print a newspaper and distribute it through the mail?” she wondered.

While online is a viable option, the majority of readers still like to hold the printed newspaper in their hands. Even daily newspapers are cutting back on the number of days they print, she said.

As Huber sees it, recruiting younger owners and publishers into community newspapers is key to their survival, and this starts at the college level.

“For young reporters, starting their careers at a weekly is the best way to learn the newspaper business,” she said. “They can do so many things at a weekly paper that they would not have the opportunity to do at a daily, and once they learn the ropes, there may be a future for them as owners and publishers.”

Teri Saylor can be contacted at